WASHINGTON -- Congress is on track to
adjourn at one of the earliest dates before Election Day since 1960,
giving lawmakers more time to campaign in the final stretch but also
opening up the institution to further criticism that it's not working
hard enough to address the nation's problems.
needs to be a renewed sense of awareness of the real problems facing
this country and a redoubling of our commitment to shed partisan roles
and get down to fixing the real problems in front of us," said Sen. Tom
Coburn, R-Okla., in a lengthy critique offered on the Senate floor where
senators traded heated barbs in the final pre-election workweek.
have watched this Senate deteriorate in a way that is almost
spectacular," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in an exchange with Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who defended his stewardship of the
"This is, I am sorry to say, the
least productive Congress perhaps ever. Why? Because everything we have
tried to do (Republicans) have objected to. Everything," Reid said,
citing 380 filibuster threats he has faced in his six years as leader.
House and Senate are on track to adjourn Friday after a fitful week of
finger-pointing as the legislative failures of this Congress added up.
For example, lawmakers are leaving town without passing a farm bill
because of partisan divisions, although the current law will expire at
the end of the month. Congress usually adjourns in early to mid-October
in election years, but after GOP and Democratic leaders agreed to a bill
to keep the government funded through March, lawmakers made it clear
that little else would get done before voters get a chance to weigh in
Congress will punt action on
the farm bill until after the election, where lawmakers face a dizzying
agenda in the lame-duck session to address what is dubbed the "fiscal
cliff": the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the triggering of $109
billion in across-the-board spending cuts that threaten to send the U.S.
economy into a recession if they occur simultaneously.
Democratic leaders sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio,
calling on him to keep the House in session in what has become an
election-year tradition for the minority party. "Our nation can
ill-afford economic uncertainty that will result from Congress remaining
idle for another six weeks," wrote Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi,
The 112th Congress has distinguished
itself as the least productive legislative session since the end of
World War II, according to a USA TODAY analysis of congressional
records. The anemic legislative output has helped fuel historical lows
in congressional approval ratings.